Browsing Category:

Korean beauty

May Coop Raw Sauce Review

As promised, here’s my review of the May Coop Raw Sauce, which has become a k-beauty classic. It’s a much buzzed-about product known for giving the skin a radiant glow. But did it live up to the hype?

May Coop Raw Sauce 1.35 oz bottle

Disclosure: This product was purchased by me, with my own money. This post does not contain any affiliate links.

This product is marketed as a “toner, emulsion, and essence in one” (Peach&Lily). While the muti-tasking benefits are great, it does make it kind of difficult to figure out where to put it in your routine. Since I use a lot of actives and didn’t want anything to interfere with the pH, I used it after I finished all of my actives, but before any serums or moisturizers.

One of the most unique and interesting aspects of this product is that it uses maple sap in place of water. Waterless skincare has been a lowkey trend (as in, it never really took off in the main stream you probably haven’t heard of it  /hipsterjokes), especially in Korea, for a while now. The idea behind it is that waterless skincare is able to cut out an ingredient (water) that doesn’t really do much for the skin in favor of higher amounts of active ingredients or other liquids that have additional skincare benefits, in this case maple sap. Maple sap is known for having a high antioxidant content, as well as the ability to absorb into the skin quickly due to a smaller molecule size, according to Peach & Lily. I couldn’t find any scientific studies to support the claim that the molecules are smaller, thus making them absorb faster. Additionally, all of the studies I found on acer mono sap were based on ingestion, not topical use, which makes them kind of useless to evaluate any claims about a skincare product. Bummer.

As I was going over the ingredients list for this review, I noticed something a bit concerning that I haven’t seen anyone else mention. First, let’s take a look at the ingredients. Then, I’ll explain which one concerns me and why.

Ingredients via Peach&Lily:

Acer Mono Sap, Alcohol, Glycerin, Peg-8, Sea Water Maris Aqua (sea Water), Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Water, Betula Alba Bark/leaf Extract, Castanea Sativa (chestnut) Bark Extract, Olea Europaea (olive) Fruit Extract, Pinus Sylvestris Bark Extract, Ribes Nigrum (black Currant) Fruit Extract, Vaccinium Vitis-idaea Fruit Extract, Vitis Vinifera (grape) Fruit Extract, Triticum Vulgare (wheat) Flour Extract, Oryza Sativa (rice) Extract, Zea Mays (corn) Germ Extract, Glycine Soja (soybean) Seed Extract, Oryza Sativa (rice) Bran Extract, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Methylparaben, Carbomer, Arginine, Panthenol, Creatine, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Phenoxyethanol, Fructan Powder, Disodium Edta, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Parfum, Sodium Hyaluranate, Ci 15510

You thought I was going to say alcohol didn’t you? Nope! It doesn’t actually concern me, and I’ll explain why. Alcohol gets demonized a lot, but ultimately I’ve never found it to be a problem in my skincare, nor have I found enough research to convince me to avoid products that contain alcohol. Alcohol can be drying, true, but it’s also important to the formulation of many products because it helps the excess product to evaporate from the skin, enhances penetration of ingredients, and acts as a solvent, which means that it helps to dissolve the other ingredients when the product is being made. Without alcohol or an alternative solvent, a lot of ingredients wouldn’t break down properly, and instead of nice, smooth, silky formulas, you’d end up with a bottle of chunky (likely unstable because the ingredients wouldn’t be equally distributed) goo. Think of it like trying to make Kraft Macaroni and Cheese without any milk to dissolve the cheese powder. Unless you have a skin condition or are particularly sensitive, there’s really no reason to freak out about a little alcohol. If a product smells like a distillery and stings your skin, that’s a different story. I don’t know what the alcohol concentration is in this product, *briefly considers trying to set it on fire a la Tracy from FanServiced-B* but it never stung my skin, even when it was at its most sensitive and damaged point.

The ingredient that does concern me is Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate,* also commonly listed as Octinoxate. Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is a UV filter, which is why it caught my attention. What’s a UV filter doing in a product that’s not intended for sun protection? Turns out it’s there to protect the ingredients from degrading in the sunlight, which makes sense since the bottle is clear. However, when I was trying to figure out why Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is in this product, I discovered several sources that indicated that Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is an endocrine disruptor. Translated into plain English, this means that substances such as Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate act similarly to the body’s natural hormones and can potentially confuse it, causing a disruption in hormone production and/or behavior. Why does this matter? Well, hormones are pretty important. They aren’t just related to sex characteristics and libido, they’re also significant players in the management of metabolism, fertility, immunity, and are crucial to the proper development of a fetus, among other things, according to PBS.

My next question, and probably your next question too, was does this apply to topical use? The answer is yes, it does. Since Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is most frequently used in sunscreens, there have been several studies performed on the effects of topical use. Octinoxate absorbs into the skin rather easily, as do most active ingredients used in chemical sunscreens (as opposed to physical sunscreens, which sit on top of the skin), causing them to have a greater effect on the the body than most topically applied products do. However, and this part is pretty important, Octinoxate has only been found to cause endocrine disruption in larger amounts than you’re probably going to apply of a toner/essence/emulsion. You’re unlikely to experience endocrine disruption from anything less than a full-body application repeated over time, as indicated by Manova, von Goetz, and Hungerbuehler (2015). The only people who should be concerned about Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate in small doses such as this are pregnant or nursing women, and products containing Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate should not be used on young children (Maipas & Nicolopoulou-Stamati, 2015). This is because the endocrine-disrupting effects are more likely to have a negative impact on the development of fetuses and young children (Maipas & Nicolopoulou-Stamati, 2015).

So if this product is unlikely to cause you any harm, why am I mentioning this? First, because the potential side effects of this ingredient are something I was unaware of until I started writing this review. Chances are, many of you are unaware of it too, which brings me to my next point. People deserve to know what’s in their personal care products, along with any risks associated with them. I’d wager that most of us have no interest in diving into academic research papers, and even if we are interested, there are often paywalls, forcing us to rely upon click-baity articles written by people who are just regurgitating other click-bait articles. I’m lucky enough to be able to access academic journals through my university, so when I have questions like this and a bit of spare time, I’m happy to go wandering around in the rabbit hole.

Finally, I don’t want this information to come across as alarmist in any way, and I especially don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about “chemicals.” The whole anti-chemical thing is something I’ve been seeing a lot of in the skincare community lately, and it drives me absolutely bat shit crazy. EVERYTHING IS CHEMICALS. Water and air- two things I think we can agree are pretty crucial to our very existence- are chemicals. Everything on the periodic table of elements- chemicals. Just like there are healthy foods and unhealthy foods, and a myriad of kinda-maybe-healthy-ish foods in between, there are just as many varying degrees of chemicals that are helpful or harmful in differing quantities and circumstances. So, now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the reason why most of you are probably here: to hear about how this product worked for me.

My Experience:

You guys get a bit lucky with this one because my skin type actually changed while I was using this product. When I first started using it back in the winter, not only was I suffering from seasonal dryness, but I’m almost certain that my moisture barrier was compromised, leading to skin that was both oily, and dry/flaky. Fun times, y’all, fun times. Later into the spring and early summer, which is around the time I finished this bottle (June, maybe), my barrier was beginning to heal and become a bit oiler, but I was still suffering from the occasional bit of dryness, especially if the weather changed suddenly. When my skin was at its driest, I was thoroughly unimpressed with this product. I was under the impression that it would give my skin tons of hydration and a nice, lasting glow, but alas, it only gave me a glow on the surface. I guess I was expecting it to improve my skin overall so that my skin was in a state that would allow me to have an actual lit-from-within glow rather than a glow that was the result of having a product on my skin. That being said, it did give me a really nice glow, so as long as you understand that the glow will go away when you remove the product from your face, then you might like this. I’d compare the effect to the Papa Recipe Bombee Honey sheetmasks, but with far less of a moisturizing effect.

The texture of the product is slightly thicker than water, but not quite what I would describe as syrupy. It absorbed easily into the skin and didn’t leave a sticky or oily residue. The scent is a fresh, slightly sweet and earthy scent. It smells a bit like plants, but not any specific plant that I’m aware of. The packaging is a thick, frosted glass bottle with a plastic wood-effect cap. The product is dispensed through a hole in the top of the bottle that is approximately 2 to 3 millimeters in diameter. While the bottle feels luxurious and is certainly very photogenic, the glass bottle does mean that there’s a greater risk of breaking it. I definitely wouldn’t recommend travelling with it.

Final Thoughts:

I wouldn’t recommend this for very dry or oily-dehydrated skin types, but I would recommend it for normal to mildly dry skin. Since I didn’t find this product to be particularly hydrating for my skin when it was dehydrated, I don’t really see the point. You’ve already got surface oil, so you don’t really need the glow, and it’s not doing anything for the dehydration. Skip it and grab some of the Papa Recipe Bombee Honey sheet masks instead.

If you’re normal/combo to mildly dry, on the other hand, I think you’ll quite like this. When my skin was changing from dehydrated to combo, I went from not liking this product at all to feeling like I would miss it when it was gone. At that point, I had realized that it was a purely superficial glow, but that was fine with me when my skin was in better condition overall.

Oily skin might like this as a lightweight moisturizer, especially in the summer months. I think if you have oily skin, this would be plenty of hydration for you, though I’m not sure you’d enjoy the glow. It’s not extreme by any means, but it is noticeable.

Would I repurchase it? At this time, no, though I wouldn’t completely rule out a repurchase in the future. I have a long list of other essences I want to try before I repurchase anything. Also, I just don’t really find I have a need for it at the moment.

Finally, I want to address the Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate one last time. All of the studies I read (there were more than what I’ve cited below, those are just the studies that directly contributed to the information in this post) indicated that there is no cause for alarm with a product such as this, that you’re only using over a small portion of your body. It also makes me feel better that I didn’t find any scientific evidence to the contrary, they all reached the same conclusion. So yes, I am recommending this product to appropriate skin types, but I’m doing so having looked into the safety of the ingredient in question. I would still use this product myself, but maybe the presence of Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate still makes you squeamish, and that’s ok. My goal is to provide information so that you can make the decisions that are right for you. As I mentioned above, products containing Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate shouldn’t be used on small children, or by women who are pregnant or nursing. Everyone else should be fine with minor exposure 🙂

Man, I really thought this was gonna be a short and simple review, but this got out of hand pretty fast. Pfft, thanks  Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate >.<

Thanks for reading!

xx Cristine

Where to purchase:

1.35 oz $14 Sephora | Peach&Lily |

5.07 oz $43 Sephora | Peach&Lily |

References:

 

Maipas, S., & Nicolopoulou-Stamati, P. (2015). Sun lotion chemicals as endocrine disruptors. Hormones, 14(1), 32-46. doi:10.14310/horm.2002.1572

Manová, E., Goetz, N. V., & Hungerbuehler, K. (2015). Aggregate consumer exposure to UV filter ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate via personal care products. Environment International, 74, 249-257. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2014.09.008

 

*My discussion of this ingredient is in no way meant to slander or defame May Coop or May Coop Raw Sauce. My purpose in discussing this ingredient and the potential side effects is purely for the spread of scientific information and creating better informed consumers. Plz don’t sue me, thx.

[Review] April Skin Magic Snow Cushion Pink in 01 Pink

Today, I’m going to be sharing my full review on the April Skin Magic Snow Cushion Pink, which is a pale pink primer in cushion form, meant to brighten skin. I’ve previously reviewed this product briefly on Instagram, but I wanted to give you guys more details about the product. This product was sent to me by 0.8L in exchange for my honest review on Instagram, but I’m choosing to do a full review on it because I genuinely like the product and want to share my experience with the product in-depth. As always, my review will be 100% honest.
This post does not contain affiliate links.

About the brand:

April Skin is a Korean skincare and cosmetics company that focuses on products made with natural ingredients. If you purchase Korean cosmetics or spend time over at reddit.com/r/asianbeauty, then you’re probably already familiar with the brand through some of their popular products, such as the Magic Stone soap, and their popular Magic Snow Cushion Foundations. The brand is built around three core concepts: exclude harmful ingredients, rejuvenate dull and fatigued skin, and make the best products to satisfy consumers.

About the Magic Snow Pink Cushion Compact:

Price: $21-29 for 15 grams of product (doesn’t include a refill)

Where to buy it Amazon $26.88 (prime shipping, all colors in stock, but listed separately as of this posting), $29 AprilSkin (ships worldwide), BBCosmetic $21

The “Pink Cushion Compact” line refers to the packaging of this product, which is a pale pink, mirrored cushion case with the brand name printed in holographic lettering. It’s gorgeous, but it’s also functional too. The plastic casing feels sturdy, and the mirror inside the compact is a high quality crystal-clear mirror, which is great if you need to use the mirror inside the case (as opposed to a bathroom mirror or vanity/desktop mirror). The compact is also refillable, though the refills for the White and Black cushion foundations won’t fit this case. Like I mentioned before, the “pink” in the name refers to the packaging, the product actually comes in four different colors.

From the product listing on April Skin’s website:
01 Pink is meant for fair skin with a warm tone. The pink creates a brightening effect and corrects the appearance of dullness in the skin. (This is the one I’m showing you today.)
02 Green is meant for correcting redness due to sensitivity to temperature, pigmentation left from acne, or other redness in the skin.
03 Purple is meant to correct dullness and discoloration in the skin, especially skin that “darkens and turns dull by the afternoon” (April Skin’s words, not mine).
04 Beige is meant to correct dull or uneven skin tone.

 

The puff is soft, thick, and bouncy, and is also antimicrobial, according to April Skin. Diving into the cushion itself, this is a pretty unique feature of this product. Rather than a standard cushion sponge soaked in product, the Magic Snow Cushion contains product sandwiched between two layers of sponge, which then rises to the top and onto the puff when pressure is applied. The idea behind this is to keep the product more hygienic, and to provide only the amount that you need for an even application. Although I appreciate the concept, I also find it to be a flaw of the product. Maybe it’s because I’m heavy-handed, or maybe it’s because I’m perpetually late, but the sponge doesn’t dispense product onto the puff as quickly as I would like. I find myself having to apply quite a bit of pressure or pushing down on it multiple times so I can get enough product to come out and get out the door (did I mention I’m always running late?).

Ingredients:

Can be found here. Notable ingredients are Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide (physical sunscreens), Niacinamide (fades pigmentation and brightens skin over time), several forms of dimethicone (so be cautious if you have a sensitivity to it, this product may not be a good fit for you), Prunus Serrulata Flower Extract (cherry blossom, anti-inflammatory), Adenosine (anti-inflammatory, potential anti-wrinkle benefits), Honey (moisturizing, anti-bacterical, antioxidant), and Camellia Japonica Flower Extract (anti-inflammatory, stimulates collagen).

 

It’s a very pale carnation pink

My Experience:

Let’s start with the smell because I fuh-reaking love the way this smells. It’s a soft, sweet, almost candy-like floral (cherry blossom maybe?). It’s divine, I would wear it as a perfume. It is quite strong, so if you don’t like scented makeup, you’ll probably want to steer clear of this, but otherwise, I think most people would find this scent pleasant or at least non-offensive. Fragrance isn’t listed anywhere in the ingredients list, which leads me to believe the scent comes naturally from the other ingredients.

The texture is lightweight, you can definitely feel that it’s a water-based product, though there’s also quite a bit of slip and slickness to it that would probably feel unpleasant on oily skin types. It’s almost kind of lotiony but without the thickness. This product is recommended for dry to combination skin because it’s moisturizing, and I totally agree with that recommendation. I think if you have oily skin, this would not only be too hydrating for you, but also too glowy. However, if you have dry skin and struggle to achieve a radiant glow, you’ll probably be head-over-heels in love with this. It really does brighten the face, and it shines through foundation beautifully.

My skin is normal to combo currently, and I have acne-prone skin. This didn’t cause me to break out at all, nor did it irritate my skin in any way. I have a lot of texture on my skin right now due to closed comedones, and I didn’t find that this emphasized them in any way, nor did it emphasize the pores on my cheeks. I don’t know how this would wear on deep wrinkles, but it didn’t sink into or emphasize the fine lines around my mouth and eyes at all. It works great under makeup too, it didn’t make my foundation wear off any more quickly than it normally would. It’s not glittery at all, but it does have a very intense sheen. I loved the glow that this created, but I did have to powder it in a few places (nose, forehead, chin) where it was just a little too much for me. Normally I would suggest applying it just in the areas that you want your skin to look more luminous, but because of the brightening pink tint, it might create a weird color difference. If you try wearing it that way, let me know how it goes. It builds beautifully without feeling cakey, although in humid weather it can feel a bit heavy if you apply several layers. One layer produced mostly shine with only a tiny bit of brightening. On my skin, I had to use two or three layers to really notice a brightening effect. For reference, my skin is approximately an NC15 in MAC, though I have an olive undertone, so it’s not an exact match. Urban Decay Naked Skin Foundation also matches me pretty well.

Finally, I will say I do think that $29 is a bit expensive for this product since it’s only 15 grams of product and doesn’t come with a refill. I did manage to find it on sale in a few places, and I would purchase it for about $20 to maybe $25. I would only pay $29 if it came with a refill. Price aside, I do really like this product and would recommend it if you’re looking for a glowy, brightening primer.

Shine bright like a diamond. One layer of the April Skin Magic Snow Cushion Pink in 01 Pink

Half-Face Comparison:

Left side: bare skin, Right side: 2-3 layers of the April Skin Magic Snow Cushion Pink in 01 Pink

Final Thoughts:

You’ll probably like this if:

  • You have dry or combo skin (maybe normal skin if you really like a glow and don’t get very oily throughout the day)
  • Most other glowy primers have let you down. Seriously, you can’t see it on my face because I’m in indirect light, but that glow is intense.
  • You’re not sensitive to or allergic to any of the ingredients in the ingredients list.
  • You don’t mind the price or you can find it on sale
  • Scented products don’t irritate your skin, cause migraines, or just make you want to throw a product across the room.

Avoid this is:

  • You’re not cool with shellin’ out between 20 and 30 dollars for a primer, especially when it’s only 15 grams of product
  • You have oily skin (srsly don’t do it mate)
  • You think the scent or any of the ingredients in this product will irritate you
  • You’re impatient or don’t have much time to get ready, ever. The way the sponge is designed causes it to take a little more time to apply than an ordinary cushion or a primer that comes in a tube, and I can see this becoming frustrating if you’re in a hurry. Maybe save it for a day when you’re not rushing to get ready, or possibly avoid it altogether if you don’t think it would fit your lifestyle.
  • Your skin is any darker than a very light medium. Even with a foundation over top, I think this shade would be way too light for anyone above ~NC/NW 30, and even that may be a stretch. You may have a bit of luck with the beige shade if you have a medium skin tone, but I really can’t say since I haven’t tried that one.
I’m a sucker for shiny things glowy products like this one, and this has a truly beautiful glow that makes me wish it came in body lotion form so I could just walk around looking like a Tiffany’s display all the time (#goals).
Have you tried any products from April Skin? Let me know what you thought of them in the comments down below (personally, I’m dying to get my hands on the cushion foundation and some of the sheet masks). You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter. Come say ‘hi’!
-Cristine

Review: Take Out Spa My Renew Bottle and My Bright Bottle Sheet Masks

I picked up the Take Out Spa My Renew Bottle and My Juicy Bottle masks a couple of months ago when HKC Plaza was having a sale. I was also on a bit of “juice” mask kick, spurred on by my love of the Ariul Juice Cleanse masks. I saw the Take Out Spa masks, and figured I’d give them a try.

 

Price: $2-3, even less if they’re on sale. HKC Plaza runs sales pretty frequently. I think they were doing 60% off when I purchased these back in January.

Concept: These masks claim the use of superfoods will make skin healthier because of the associated vitamins. Cold-pressed fruits and vegetables are also highlighted as a benefit on the packaging. Cold processing the ingredients supposedly retains more nutrients, making it more beneficial for the skin. However, there has been no conclusive scientific evidence to support the claim that cold-pressed juices are more nutritious than traditionally processed juices, so I doubt it would make that much of a difference in a sheet mask either. Beyond that, making essence for a sheet mask is different than making a juice because there are additional things to think about such as ingredient reactions and stabilization. Ultimately, the concept just doesn’t translate.

 

My Renew Bottle:

 

Claims: Increase tightness, moisture, and elasticity.

Ingredients:

purified water, glycerin, glycereth-26, Butylene Glycol, pomegranate extract, sodium hyaluronate, tomato extract, cherry extract, niacinamide, calcium panhothenate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, pyridoxine HCL, maltodextrin, sodium starch octenyl succinate, silica, trehalose, betaine, erythritol, PEG/PPG-17/6 copolymer, PEG-60 hydro-generated castor oil, xanthan gum, allantoin, PEG-14M, carbomer, triethanolamine, hydroxiethyl urea, tocopheryl acetate, disodium EDTA, ethylhexyl glycerin, phenoxyethanol, fragrance.

My experience:

I thought this mask was ok, but I wasn’t wowed by it. It had a fruity scent, like cherry and pomegranate, which makes sense since those are two of the ingredients in the mask. The mask was saturated in clear, slightly slippery essence with a little bit left over. It didn’t have any sort of backing. There were slits for adjustment at the chin, and the overall fit of the mask was pretty good for my face shape. The eye, nose, and mouth holes were quite small, a perfect fit for me, but potentially bad news if you have larger features. The upper lip flap was a bit large for me, but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would while I was wearing the mask.  It had an interesting texture though, like a tightly woven net, a bit different from the usual smooth sheet of material.

 

The mask also felt a little cooling, which was great since it’s currently hotter than Satan’s balls in Vegas. I removed the mask after 20-25 minutes, when the lip flap was drying out. The essence soaked into my skin easily, but felt tacky to the touch. I didn’t notice any effect from this mask beyond hydration.

My Bright Bottle

 

Claims: Shiny skin due to protection of moisture barrier, anti-aging by fighting free radicals, brightness.

Ingredients:

purified water, glycerin, glycereth-26, Butylene Glycol, grapefruit extract, sodium hyaluronate, lemon extract, orange extract, niacinamide, calcium panhothenate , sodium ascorbyl phosphate, pyridoxine HCL, maltodextrin, sodium starch octenyl succinate, silica, trehalose, betaine, erythritol, PEG/PPG-17/6 copolymer, PEG-60 hydro-generated castor oil, xanthan gum, allantoin, PEG-14M, carbomer, triethanolamine, hydroxiethyl urea, tocopheryl acetate, disodium EDTA, ethylhexyl glycerin, phenoxyethanol, fragrance.

My Experience:

This had the same fit and the same type of clear essence as the My Renew Bottle mask. I hated the scent of this one, it smelled just like lemon bathroom cleaner. Luckily, I couldn’t smell it while it was on because I probably would have ripped it off of my face. Again, I wore this one for 25 minutes. The results were pretty much the same as the My Renew Bottle mask: hydrating, but not much else.

The Final Verdict:

These just didn’t do it for me. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with them, but I want a sheet mask to either provide great results or a great experience, and these provided neither.

What sheet masks have you been loving lately? Let me know in the comments!

─ Cristine

MaskBox: Sheet Mask Subscription Box Review February 2016

Today I’ve got a brand new subscription box to share with you!

Maskbox is a monthly sheet mask subscription box. Each month you will receive between 2-6 masks, depending on the plan you choose. Plans start at $10. I’ll discuss the subscription options in more detail down below. Maskbox is based in Los Angeles and ships between the 5th and the 8th every month. The plan that I chose for my first month is the Combo Box, which contains 3 masks and retails for $10/month.

Disclosure: I purchased this product with my own money. All views expressed are my own, authentic opinions and experiences with the product. This post does not contain any affiliate links.


My MaskBox arrived in a sturdy cardboard envelope, with this cardboard pouch inside. It folds out to reveal the contents.

Bonus points for spelling my name correctly!

It contained a small note card, a sheet explaining how to use a sheet mask, and three masks.

February 2016 Combo MaskBox

 The Combo MaskBox is essentially a variety pack. The other box options are aimed at specific needs, such as anti-aging, or concepts, such as the Luxury MaskBox. Since I like to use a little bit of everything, I thought the Combo box would be the best fit for me.

These are the two Valsarea masks, Pearl on the left, and Royal Jelly on the right.
The first two masks are from the same brand, Valsarea, which I had never heard of before. I really appreciate that they’ve put in some masks that are more difficult to get in the U.S since many subscriptions tend to repeat the same brands and products. They’ve also translated the ingredients into English, which is really important for anyone who has any sensitivities or allergies. 
The downside to these being less well-known masks is that it’s difficult to track down any additional info on them, such as their price. I wasn’t able to find an active listing for either of these Valsarea masks anywhere, so I have absolutely no idea what their retail value is. What I can tell you is that they’re manufactured by Samsung and are sometimes also listed under the brand “FD Agency.” Valsarea has a physical store located in Tokyo. That’s where the info ends, unfortunately. I’ve tried numerous search terms, as well as the Korean and Japanese Google sites, but turned up very little. 
As for my personal experiences with these two masks, my feelings are a bit mixed. 

Valsarea Pure Essence Royal Jelly Sheet Mask

Price: edit 3/13/16— MaskBox is now selling a 10 pack of these for $30 on their website, so approximate value is $3. Still no idea what they sell for in Japan or any other Asian countries that have access to the Valsarea brand.

Experience:

When I took it out of the package, it was soaked with clear essence, and there was about 1.5 teaspoons remaining in the packet. The mask was made from a slightly stiff cotton, but not so stiff that it was uncomfortable. It didn’t adhere well to my chin, but was fine everywhere else, aided by the small slits that made it adjustable. At first, the smell was sharp, almost a bit vinegary, which I think was the royal jelly. It quickly became a sweeter, softer smell after I applied it to my face. It was light, but noticeable for the duration of use. I kept the mask on for about 30 minutes, at which point it had started to dry out. The remaining serum was non-sticky and absorbed quickly. Afterwards, my skin felt hydrated and soft.
Didn’t adhere well to the chin and was a bit big above the lip, but that’s a common problem for me since I have so little space between my nose and my upper lip.

Thoughts:

I liked it, but I don’t see myself repurchasing (assuming that I could actually find it anywhere). It was effective for hydrating the skin, and I really enjoyed the scent, but the fit wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t a bad mask, I just have others that I like a lot better. I don’t actually know what the purpose of the mask is since it’s not anywhere on the packet and there’s no info card included, but judging by the ingredients, I’d say it’s meant to be anti-inflammatory. I didn’t really notice any anti-inflammatory effects, just softer skin.
Totally ripped into this before taking a picture. Oops. Sorry.

Valsarea Pure Essence Pearl Sheet Mask

Price: edit 3/13/16— MaskBox is now selling a 10 pack of these for $30 on their website, so approximate value is $3. Still no idea what they sell for in Japan or any other Asian countries that have access to the Valsarea brand.

Experience: 

My experience with this mask was very similar to the Valsarea Royal Jelly mask. It was soaked with clear essence, with about 1.5 to 2 teaspoons remaining in the packet. It was made from the same stiff cotton, but this mask didn’t have any scent. I wore this one for about 25-30 minutes before it started drying out. When I removed the mask, my skin felt a bit slippery, almost greasy to the touch. Not so much that I felt like something was sitting on my skin or that my skin felt dirty, it just had a bit more of an oily feel. I’d compare it to the slight bit of oil that’s left behind from an oil cleanser if you don’t remove it properly. My pores appeared to be a bit less noticeable, but that was the only effect that I noticed from this mask.

Thoughts:

I didn’t really enjoy this one. I preferred the texture and scent of the Royal Jelly mask, plus I felt like it did more for my skin. I had the same problem with this mask: no idea what it’s supposed to do. Pearl is often used in brightening masks, so that’s my best guess.

Nature Republic Real Nature Shea Butter Sheet Mask

Price: $1.60-1.99 (not including shipping)

Experience:

This mask was a thin cotton, soaked in a milky essence. There was very little essence left in the package, maybe a dime-sized amount. It had a light scent that reminded me of baby powder. I’m not a fan of powdery scents, but surprisingly this didn’t bother me while I was wearing the mask. The fit was good, it conformed to my face nicely and didn’t have any major gaps, though it did stick up a little where it met my hairline. I wore this one for 35 minutes, but easily could have worn it for another 10-15. My face was cold from the heater coming on (blows cold air first, stupid electric heat) and I wanted to go to sleep. The essence was very hydrating, which allowed me to skip moisturizer that night. It did leave a little bit of a sticky feeling, like lotion before it’s dry, but I could only feel it when I touched my face. It didn’t end up being a problem, and trust me, if it had, I’d have woken up with cat hair stuck to my face. Luckily, I didn’t.

A bit too big for my face, but a good fit overall.

Thoughts:

This was my favorite of the three, and I would definitely repurchase this. I actually haven’t tried any of the Nature Republic Real Nature masks before, but after using this one, I plan to try the full line. The fit was very comfortable and it did a great job of hydrating my skin. This one did include a description in English on the packet: “shea butter nourishes the skin with a luminous glow,” which I definitely agree with.

Subscription Options:

$10/month. 3 masks per box. Choose from Hydration, Brightening, Anti-Aging, or Combo. 
$20/month. 6 masks per box. Choose from Hydration, Brightening, Anti-Aging, or Combo. 
$20/month. 2 masks per box. Luxury Box. This box features multi-step masks and hydro-gels. 
$40/month. 4 masks per box. Luxury Box. This box features multi-step masks and hydro-gels.
There is also an option to purchase a specially curated box as a one-time purchase, no subscription necessary. The current offering is the Girls Night In box for $40. Contains 12 masks. 
If you’d like to, you can subscribe here. You can also find MaskBox on Instagram and Twitter.

Final Thoughts:

I really like that they included masks I haven’t seen before, which I think gives them a possible advantage over other sheet mask subscription boxes. I’m curious to see if they’ll continue to send masks that are lesser known, I really hope so! Although the masks weren’t the highest quality, they were something I hadn’t seen before. I appreciate that they included a translation of the ingredients, but in the future I would really like to see some sort of info card included that explained what each mask was for and the retail price. I have no idea what the Valsarea masks cost, so I don’t know how much the total value of the box is**edit 3/13/16 total estimated value of the box is between $7.60-7.99, so for the value, no I would not recommend this subscription** Shipping was super quick since they’re based in Los Angeles. 
Overall, I think MaskBox is off to an ok start, but like any new company, there are a few kinks to work out. I have some mixed feelings, but I want to see how the future mask selections develop. Congrats on the launch Tammy and Bryan!

Why Do So Many Asian Beauty Products Mention Jeju Island?

As someone who has recently (as in the last 6-8 months) taken the plunge into Asian beauty, I spend an absurd amount of time scouring the internet for info. What can I say, I like rabbit holes. *shrug* My nerdiness makes me want to know ~all the things~, so my spare time has quickly been filled up by reading blog posts and reddit discussions old and new, seeking out trustworthy sources of products and information, and endless amounts of scrolling through site after site in order to understand who has the best prices on what (the discount diva in me strikes again, did someone say ‘free shipping’?) and to get a better feel for what’s out there and what I might want to try next. In all of my nights spent scrolling through TK, RRS, and about 20 other sellers, I’ve seen numerous references to Jeju Island, but its significance to AB is rarely explained outside of promotional info. So, a curious-kitten mission took shape and now here we are, trying to answer the question: What’s the deal with Jeju Island and how does it relate to beauty products?

Jeju Island is located off the coast of South Korea.

Jeju Island (제주도) is a South Korean island, located just south of the mainland in the Korea Strait. It has gone by many names over the years, but you’re most likely to see it referred to as Jeju Island or Jejudo. The island was formed by a volcanic eruption around 2 million years ago, which gives the island some interesting geographic features, such as lava tubes and an abundance of volcanic soil. It’s well known for its natural beauty, and has been named as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The primary industries of the island are agriculture and fishing, which is where it begins to intersect with Asian beauty.

Many cosmetics companies source ingredients from Jeju Island due to the optimal growing conditions, especially the famed purity of Jeju Island, and in some cases, the choice to obtain ingredients from Jeju Island is also influenced by the vibrant folklore, which sometimes plays a role in the marketing of products that feature ingredients from Jeju Island.

Volcanic ash soil on Jeju Island. Source

Volcanic Ash Soil

Volcanic ash soil is what’s left behind long after a volcano has erupted. It’s a porous, lightweight soil, that is usually dark brown in color, and which possesses a higher concentration and diversity of minerals than other soils (“Unique Properties of Volcanic Ash Soils”, Nanzyo, 2002). According to the 20th World Congress of Soil Science,

“Jeju volcanic ash soils become good soils to grow crops because of greater organic matter contents/CEC, better moisture retention and soil aeration.” Source

To put it into plain terms, growing crops in volcanic soil means plants receive more nutrition due to the higher mineral content and the moisture retention of the volcanic ash. Because the volcanic ash is porous, it also helps plants to grow deeper roots. This, along with the relatively mild, humid subtropical climate and lack of pollution lend themselves to excellent harvests of a number of ingredients which are used in many beauty treatments. Growing in volcanic ash soil in the right conditions makes better plants; better plants make better ingredients; and better ingredients make better skincare. It turns out, there’s some legitimacy to the claim that ingredients from Jejudo are superior.

The Mythology of Jeju Island

The rich mythology and the natural beauty of Jeju Island (especially the low level of pollution) also makes for great marketing, and cosmetic companies aren’t hesitating to make good use of it. Although Jeju island has only become a major trend in Korean beauty in the past year or so, major manufacturers have been sourcing ingredients from Jeju Island for quite some time, as is the case with the beauty giant AmorePacific, Korea’s largest cosmetics company, who has owned a green tea farm on the island since 1979. In addition to green tea, Jeju Island also supplies AmorePacific with the red ginseng and bamboo sap used in their skincare products.

AmorePacific explains how it began its relationship with Jeju Island:

Five centuries ago, on the magnificent Pacific Island known as Island of the Gods, a raging volcano left in its wake the most nutrient-rich soil imaginable. Believed to be a gift of the Goddess Yul-ryeo, from this fertile, fruitful soil was grown the most desirable green tea in all of Asia. Tales of its potency were legendary: emissaries traveled for days to reserve and conserve harvests; Asian princesses rubbed the leaf’s powerful essence on their face to maintain their youth.

Six decades ago one man, Sung-Hwan-Suh, had the foresight and perseverance to study the remarkable benefits of these life-giving plants. He pledged to share the amazing antioxidant benefits of these indigenous Korean botanicals with the world.
From South Korea’s Jeju Island, he began what today is his bespoke company’s journey to unearth and evolve this unique, revolutionary science. From this proud heritage, AMOREPACIFIC conceives and achieves strikingly efficacious skincare. Source

The myth that AmorePacific is referencing is an origin myth from the mainland. A more common legend from the people of Jejudo, who developed a culture and mythology different from that of the mainland, is the legend of Grandmother Seolmundae. There are many versions of this myth, and additional stories about Seolmundae, but the version commonly accepted by scholars as being the most accurate is that Seolmundae was a giant goddess who created the island, and who now supports the island by letting it sit atop her body while she watches over the people of Jejudo. Source

Jeju Island in Skincare Products

One of Innisfree’s Jeju-oriented product lines. Source

Innisfree (owned by AmorePacific) also has close ties to Jeju Island. Being an eco-friendly brand, the purity of Jeju ingredients plays an even larger role in the brand’s marketing. Many of the products mention ingredients from Jeju Island, such as the Innisfree Orchid range, which contains an antioxidant obtained from orchid grown on Jeju Island. Innisfree also has a mineral water range which uses water from the Sanbang moutain hot springs on Jeju Island, and a volcanic range which features the mineral-rich volcanic scoria (a type of porous rock similar to pumice) from Jeju. Of course, since Innisfree is owned by AmorePacific, they use green tea from the same farm on Jejudo in their Green Tea Line. Finally, the Jeju Bija range uses bija grown on Jeju. Additionally, the Gamgyul tangerine (native to Jejudo), camellia petals, barley, nutmeg, and several sea plants used in Innisfree products are all sourced from Jeju Island and the surrounding waters. Source

Source

One of the most trendy products in Asian Beauty over the past couple of months has been the Blossom Jeju Pink Camellia Soombi Essence Serum, which also uses camellia from Jeju Island. Other well-known brands that use botanical ingredients from Jeju Island include C20 (in the Vitamin Sleep 9 to 5 Crema), PureHeal, Aritaum (the aloe used in their products is grown on Jeju), Ciracle, Its Skin, Mamonde, Mizon, and Nature Republic. You may have also seen Jeju Island mentioned on the SKINFOOD Jeju Tangerine sheet mask, The Face Shop’s Jeju Volcanic line, and The Yeon’s Hallabang line.

The material for konjac sponges is also often sourced from Jeju Island by a number of brands, such as Innisfree, Chica Y Chico, and Boscia.

Horse oil? Also (sometimes) from Jeju Island. The Samsung Mayu Horse Oil Cream uses oil from the horses raised on Jeju Island who, like everything else from Jeju Island, are supposedly more pure. The oil in the Guerisson 9 Complex that’s been the star of the horse oil trend, however, is sourced from Germany.

So what does Jeju Island have to do with Asian beauty products? Damn near everything in a field that’s so heavily driven by ingredients. In the world of beauty products, Jeju Island has become synonymous with purity, and to include the name of Jeju Island on a product indicates quality.

Have you used any products with ingredients from Jeju Island? Let me know in the comments down below.

AmorePacific’s Green Tea farm on Jeju Island. Source

If you’re interested in learning more about Jeju Island, check out some of these links:

  • Tricia Ong from VainGloriousYou took a trip to Jeju Island with Innisfree to get a behind-the-scenes look at their facilities on Jeju Island. She has some amazing photos and information about the ingredients Innisfree uses. I highly recommend reading her post!
  • AmorePacific is working on an amazing project to protect the natural resources of Jeju Island and increase the benefits to the local community, who have suffered losses lately due to an increase in Chinese companies setting up shop on Jeju Island and taking business from the locals. Tourism has become an increasingly important industry on Jeju Island, and I love that AmorePacific is taking steps to protect the community.

Jini Beauty Box: A New Asian Beauty Subscription Box (Now Bi-Monthly!)

[Edit 1/8/17 Jini Beauty Box has become bi-monthly, meaning you recieve a box every other month. You can basically think of it as getting the amount you would get in two boxes, but every other month. More details below]
[Edit 5/11: All of my Jini Beauty Box reviews can be found here]

New Asian beauty subscription boxes have been launching left and right lately. After the newly-launched Jini Beauty Box was brought to my attention by the gals at BeautyandtheCat, I decided to sign up for the box and be a bit of a guinea pig, if you will. As of the writing of this post, there’s not very much information available on this box (hence the guinea pig-ing), but I wanted to go ahead and sum up what I’ve been able to find out so far in hopes of helping anyone else who’s looking for info on this box. And just to let you know, I’m not affiliated with this company in any way, and I paid for the box with my own money. I’ll be doing a review of the box once it arrives, so stay tuned for that.  All of my Jini Beauty Box reviews are available at the link above! I haven’t reviewed any of the bi-monthly boxes yet, but will do so starting with the Jan/Feb 2017 box.

What is it?

A bi-monthly subscription box centered around Korean beauty products, and curated to address the needs of different skin types. Every other month, subscribers receive a box of 6-8 full size and deluxe sample products, 2 sheet masks, and a few free samples. Boxes have typically included 1 or 2 makeup items as well, which I’ve really enjoyed.

Subscribers choose from one of four boxes, each geared toward a different skin type. There are no quizzes to take, you just choose the box you think will suit you the best. You’re also able to change which skin type you’re subscribed to from month to month. So, for example, I chose to subscribe to the Normal/Combination box because my skin is combo most of the year, and even though I have acne, I find most acne products to be too drying for my skin. Let’s say that I get my box and I find that the products aren’t quite cutting it because my skin is throwing a weather-induced tantrum and needs more hydrating products. I could go into my account settings and switch my skin type to Dry/Mature (I’ll show you how to do this later), then the next shipment I would receive a box with products aimed at treating dry/mature skin. I’ve been very happy with the normal/combo box, so I haven’t felt the need to try any of the other skin types, but I love knowing that I have the option.

If you’re concerned about ingredients, Jini Beauty Box also features a list of ingredients for the products in every box, which can be found here.

Screenshot of the subscription page on jinibeauty.com *Note* This screenshot reflects the old prices, NOT the bi-monthly prices.

How much does it cost?

A bi-monthly subscription is $44.95 billed on the 14th of every other month. (ex. January,  then March)

6-month (3 box) pre-pay is $129.95
12-month (6 box) pre-pay is 249.95

Subscriptions automatically renew unless you cancel or skip before the 14th of the billing month. So if you received the Jan/Feb box but wanted to skip the March/April box, you would need to skip before the 14th of March.

Shipping is free in the US, but some states, such as New Jersey, may be subject to sales tax. I live in Nevada and wasn’t charged sales tax on my order.

Where does it ship to?

At this time, US and Canada (shipping is free in the US, $8 in Canada)

When does it ship?

According to the jinibeauty.com FAQ, boxes will ship around the 5th of the 2nd month. For example, for the January/February box, you would be billed on the 14th of January, then your box would ship around the 5th of February. Typically, my boxes have arrived within 2-3 of shipping.

How hard is it to cancel?

Super easy. It’s part of why I was willing to take a chance on a brand new box. From the subscription page, click on your name in the top right corner, then click ‘My Account’. This will take you to a page where you’ll be able to see all of your account info and settings. There will be a box on the left-hand side labeled ‘Your Subscription(s)’, click the large purple button that says ‘Edit’. On the next page, you’ll see something that looks like this:
Screenshot from the jinibeauty.com subscription settings page. *NOTE* this screenshot reflects the old prices, not the bi-monthly prices.
From this page, you can choose to skip your next renewal (top right), change your skin type, change your subscription term, or cancel your subscription altogether. Click ‘change’ to save any changes you make. I love that this sub doesn’t require you to make an awkward/inconvenient phone call to cancel, and even better, you’re able to skip a month without having to go through the constant subscribe/unsubscribe cycle (Birchbox anyone?? hehe). There’s no limit to how many times you can skip, either.

How is the bi-monthly subscription different from the old Jini Beauty Box?

The bi-monthly subscription is basically 2 boxes rolled into one, so you’re actually getting more products for less money than before. The monthly boxes were $24.95, so 2 months would have been $49.90. The bi-monthly boxes are $44.95, so you’re actually saving $4.95.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical when Jini Beauty Box switched to a bi-monthly format because I’ve never really been a fan of that type of subscription. However, the September/October boxes was one of the best boxes ever, so after giving it a try, I really think it’s worth the wait. Sunny’s thoughtful curation really shines through, and some of the products I’ve received in these boxes have become beloved favorites. I’ve been very happy with these boxes and would highly recommend it if you’re looking for an asian beauty box that gives a variety of products. Personally, I get bored with boxes that are purely sheet masks, so Jini has been perfect for me. I’ve been a subscriber for a year now (skipped a few boxes here and there, but I’ve never once wanted to cancel) so I can confidently say that I love this box and I think it’s one of the best AB beauty boxes on the market in terms of quality and value.

 

I think I’ve answered the most pressing questions, but if you want to learn more about Jini Beauty, here are a few useful links:
Links to all of Jini Beauty’s social media:
You can also contact Jini Beauty with any questions at support@jinibeauty.com

Hopefully this post was helpful to you if you’re thinking of subscribing. If you want to subscribe, you can do so here.

-Cristine